Fun four years for Granger senior
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The journey came to a premature conclusion, but it was nonetheless a memorable one for LaGrange High’s Jack DeVane.
DeVane is a senior on the LaGrange High boys’ soccer team, and being able to share the field with his friends and teammates over the years meant the world to him.
“With I’d say most of my senior friends, I’d played with them since U-10 or U-8 soccer,” Devane said. “We’ve grown up playing soccer. On a random Sunday you say, do you want to go kick it around on the fielder or whatever, and they’re like sure, let’s go. I’d get 10 of my friends who are on the team to come play. It’s just fun. It doesn’t feel like we have to go do it, we get to go do it.”
DeVane, who has enrolled at Anderson University in South Carolina and will become a student there this fall, was a part of the LaGrange varsity program since his freshman season, and he and his teammates enjoyed plenty of success.
Over the past four seasons, including a 2020 campaign that was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Grangers are 47-15-4, and they’ve won a region championship and reached the second round of the state tournament for three straight years.
DeVane hasn’t just been along for the ride.
DeVane began getting significant time in goal during his sophomore season in 2018, and he’s been a key member of the team since then.
DeVane split time with Butler Evans during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and he Cason Blackburn shared the goal-keeping responsibilities this year.
There’s plenty of pressure that comes with being a goal keeper, and DeVane said you have to always be ready.
“It can change in a matter of seconds,” DeVane said. “You can go the whole game without even touching the ball, but if that ball goes in last minute, you lose. If you save it, you’re the hero. It’s like it’s all on the line.”
The 2018 team is a special one for DeVane, not just because that’s when he started playing a lot, but because of the camaraderie between the players.
“The chemistry on that team was so good,” DeVane said. “It wasn’t just that we were teammates, it was that we were best friends. Soccer can feel like it’s work, and of we have to do this, or we have to do that. It was more like, I get to go hang out with all my buddies. It was just fun.”
The 2019 season was another enjoyable one for DeVane, and one memorable game at Callaway Stadium stands out.
Facing Cartersville with first place in Region 5-AAAA on the line, LaGrange beat Cartersville 5-4.
That game came down to penalty kicks, and DeVane made some critical stops as LaGrange secured the thrilling win.
“That might be my best memory from the last four years of soccer,” DeVane said. “That Cartersville game, ending on PKs, everybody’s hearts were pumping like crazy in that game.”
LaGrange beat Sandy Creek a few weeks later to secure the region championship, and it beat North Oconee 3-2 in the first round of the state playoffs before losing to Marist 3-0 in round two.
DeVane was enjoying a strong senior season when the players got word that the season was suspended, and it was later canceled.
LaGrange has been one of the state’s top-ranked Class AAAA teams over the past few years, and DeVane takes a lot of satisfaction from that.
“It meant a lot,” DeVane said. “We’re just LaGrange, and compared to Woodward Academy or Marist, we’re just the little guys. And then you start looking, and we’re top 10, top five, and it’s moving up. And little old LaGrange actually got there. It means something.”
DeVane also appreciates the support the soccer team received on campus from students and teachers.
“When the whole school cares about your sport, it means a lot,” DeVane said. “You have teachers or students saying, how was that game?
“You know they care. It fills your heart. You’re like, OK, I’m not just doing this for me, but for other people.”